Table of Con­tents | Arti­cle doi: 10.17742/IMAGE.VT.11.3.8 | PDF

Trans­lat­ing Art Cat­a­logues Sil­via Pireddu

Translating Art Catalogues: Theoretical and Practical Issues

Sil­via Pireddu
This arti­cle address­es the trans­la­tion of exhi­bi­tion cat­a­logues in the con­text of cross-medi­al com­mu­ni­ca­tion by dis­cussing a small cor­pus of mul­ti­lin­gual texts. Mul­ti­lin­gual art cat­a­logues are a stan­dard­ized genre, which col­lect aca­d­e­m­ic, explana­to­ry, and descrip­tive writ­ings. These hybrid vol­umes pose prob­lems relat­ed to seman­tic and com­mu­nica­tive trans­la­tion, ter­mi­nol­o­gy, spe­cial­ized lan­guage, and emo­tive dis­course by involv­ing the visu­al. In a world where art is com­mu­ni­cat­ed with diverse media, pub­lish­ers should recon­sid­er the for­mat of exhi­bi­tion cat­a­logues, as trans­la­tion across media and lan­guages can play a cru­cial role in mar­ket­ing art and culture.
Cet arti­cle traite de la tra­duc­tion des cat­a­logues d’exposition dans le con­texte de la com­mu­ni­ca­tion cross-médi­a­tique en abor­dant un petit cor­pus de textes mul­ti­lingues. Les cat­a­logues d’art mul­ti­lingues sont un genre stan­dard­isé, générale­ment imprimé, qui rassem­ble des écrits académiques, des textes expli­cat­ifs et descrip­tifs égale­ment. Ces vol­umes hybrides posent des prob­lèmes liés à la tra­duc­tion séman­tique et com­mu­nica­tive, à la ter­mi­nolo­gie, au lan­gage spé­cial­isé et à la fonc­tion du dis­cours émo­tion­nel en impli­quant le visuel. Dans un monde où l’art est com­mu­niqué par les médias les plus divers, les édi­teurs devraient recon­sid­ér­er le for­mat des cat­a­logues d’exposition afin d’impliquer le pub­lic, car la tra­duc­tion entre les médias et les langues joue un rôle clé dans le mar­ket­ing de l’art et de la culture.

Art Catalogues: Positioning Images as a Form of Creativeness

This arti­cle aims at dis­cussing the edit­ing and trans­la­tion of exhi­bi­tion cat­a­logues in the con­text of cross-medi­al com­mu­ni­ca­tion. The analy­sis of a cor­pus of mul­ti­lin­gual art cat­a­logues shows that this text type is a stan­dard­ized genre, typ­i­cal­ly print­ed, that col­lects aca­d­e­m­ic writ­ing along with more pop­u­lar­ized texts that explain the orga­ni­za­tion of an exhi­bi­tion. These vol­umes com­bine essays on the­o­ret­i­cal and crit­i­cal approach­es to art, along with more tra­di­tion­al his­tor­i­cal descrip­tions of art­works and infor­ma­tive con­tri­bu­tions aimed at guid­ing reader/audience response. The com­pos­ite, hybrid struc­ture of these print­ed texts pos­es prob­lems relat­ed to seman­tic and com­mu­nica­tive trans­la­tion; in par­tic­u­lar, they involve the trans­la­tion of ter­mi­nol­o­gy and spe­cial­ized lan­guage along with the ren­der­ing of the emo­tive dis­course func­tion, which will be dis­cussed in the next sec­tion. The cor­pus shows that the visu­al ele­ment is espe­cial­ly chal­leng­ing in mul­ti­lin­gual cat­a­logues that have to frame images and texts on the same page. Far from being a prob­lem of lay­out man­age­ment, the posi­tion­ing of visu­al imagery in art cat­a­logues is an inte­gral part of the cre­ative process and moti­vates the pub­lic to buy them. Images are dis­cur­sive arte­facts that can be used to inves­ti­gate the rhetor­i­cal process­es involved in art crit­i­cism and the mar­ket­ing of an exhi­bi­tion. Trans­la­tion in exhi­bi­tion cat­a­logues is the inter­face where many areas of human cre­ativ­i­ty meet and con­tribute to an inter­cul­tur­al con­cep­tion of aes­thet­ics. In the first two sec­tions, my arti­cle defines the genre of the exhi­bi­tion cat­a­logue and then exam­ines exam­ples from the cor­pus. I then dis­cuss aspects of trans­la­tion in lin­guis­tic terms to point out that in a world where art is com­mu­ni­cat­ed with diverse media, pub­lish­ers should recon­sid­er the for­mat of exhi­bi­tion cat­a­logues to engage audi­ences bet­ter. Final­ly, the arti­cle sug­gests that trans­la­tion across media and lan­guages can play a key role in mar­ket­ing art and culture.

Cross Medial Communication, Catalogues, and Their Context

Art cat­a­logues are com­pos­ite books col­lect­ing images, essays, and short per­son­al texts writ­ten by artists and cura­tors. Short inter­views with peo­ple involved in an art event may also be added. Cat­a­logues can be mono­lin­gual or con­tain both the orig­i­nal text and its trans­la­tion in one or more lan­guages. The struc­ture of these pub­li­ca­tions is an inter­est­ing case study to dis­cuss trans­la­tion in rela­tion to the per­sis­tence of tra­di­tion­al forms of com­mu­ni­ca­tion despite the dom­i­nance of web-medi­at­ed practices—catalogues are a tra­di­tion that dates back to late-16th and 17th-cen­tu­ry sales lists (see “Sale Catalogues”).

The con­text in which these vol­umes are real­ized is shaped by the com­plex inter­ac­tion between the artists and a range of actors, such as patrons, deal­ers, crit­ics, gallery man­agers, and col­lec­tors. A cat­a­logue is always a col­lec­tive enter­prise. In fact, in the con­text of con­tem­po­rary web-medi­at­ed social rela­tions, art is con­strued by cross-medi­al com­mu­ni­ca­tion strate­gies which reuse tra­di­tion­al text for­mats such as cat­a­logues and reviews with dif­fer­ent lev­els of medi­a­tion. In prac­tice, muse­ums and insti­tu­tions stim­u­late audi­ence nar­ra­tives and sup­port the mix­ing of offi­cial and infor­mal con­tents (espe­cial­ly images) on social-net­work pages. At the same time, crit­i­cal writ­ings, aca­d­e­m­ic reviews, and cat­a­logues are tra­di­tion­al gen­res that con­tin­ue to be print­ed and pub­lished in dig­i­tal for­mat to tes­ti­fy to the val­ue of art.

As Arthur C. Dan­to points out, con­text “cre­ates the cre­ators” and defines what posi­tion the cre­ator will occu­py what­ev­er the medi­um, as the cir­cu­la­tion of the art­work is part of the cre­ative process itself (Dan­to 216). Art is authen­ti­cat­ed and rec­og­nized as such by a net­work of experts that medi­ate mean­ing to the pub­lic: cat­a­logues pre­serve the pur­pose, mes­sage, and inten­tion of art beyond indi­vid­ual taste (Arnold 211-30).

How­ev­er, in our glob­al­ized cul­ture, the func­tion of spe­cif­ic instances of com­mu­ni­ca­tion makes lit­tle sense if these are not seen in con­cert with oth­er media usage. Books, videos, instal­la­tions, exhi­bi­tion pro­grams, tech­nolo­gies, and events sup­port the pub­lic by help­ing them to shape their per­son­al expe­ri­ence of art and make their own mean­ings and nar­ra­tives around which they can build a mem­o­rable under­stand­ing of the shared art object. The cre­ative aspect of art com­mu­ni­ca­tion is enhanced by the col­lec­tive con­struc­tion and inter­pre­ta­tion of any mes­sage about art and its aes­thet­ic mean­ing. In this per­spec­tive, cross-medi­al com­mu­ni­ca­tion has stim­u­lat­ed research about con­ver­gence cul­ture (Jenk­ins 1-24), trans­me­dia sto­ry­telling (Sco­lari), inter­ac­tive mar­ket­ing, the impact of local­iza­tion, and the co-cre­ation expe­ri­ence and emo­tive engage­ment of the pub­lic in muse­um and art event orga­ni­za­tions (Cho et al.). What­ev­er the approach, all the speci­fici­ties of the var­i­ous research method­olo­gies boil down to some key aspects: the cru­cial role played by the pub­lic in aug­ment­ing aes­thet­ic mean­ing, the need for flex­i­bil­i­ty in devis­ing exhi­bi­tion con­tent, and the mobil­i­ty of tex­tu­al­i­ty enhanced by images in the art prod­uct and its com­mu­ni­ca­tion (Chaim; Hugh­es and Moscar­do; Run­nel et al.).

More­over, cross-media forms of expres­sion also high­light the impor­tance of the rela­tion­ship between words and images as a form of per­for­mance (Aus­lan­der 107-09). As Richard Schech­n­er points out, “Per­for­ma­tiv­i­ty is everywhere—in dai­ly behav­iour, in the pro­fes­sions, on the inter­net and media, in the arts, and lan­guage. It and its sis­ter term, ‘per­for­ma­tive,’ are very hard to pin down. These words have acquired a wide range of mean­ings” (Schech­n­er 123). The con­cept of per­for­ma­tiv­i­ty relates to the fact that the Arts and, in par­tic­u­lar, con­tem­po­rary art, is dynam­ic, col­lab­o­ra­tive, and main­ly an urban phe­nom­e­non. Art is per­formed to be expe­ri­enced: artists expose them­selves and their works in real or vir­tu­al spaces, while the pub­lic is engaged and stim­u­lat­ed to react to, par­tic­i­pate in, and refor­mu­late the work of art (Bay-Cheng et al.). Art does things with images and exists along with words: var­i­ous­ly medi­at­ed, art is moved to a web-based real­i­ty that is sub­se­quent­ly aug­ment­ed by social shar­ing in a third dimen­sion. This medi­a­tion process may be planned, spon­ta­neous, or arranged to look unstruc­tured. The com­mu­nica­tive act con­structs the art object with­in the frame of col­lec­tive modal­i­ties of obser­va­tion, choice, and fore­ground­ing, which can be seen as an act of translation.

The trans­la­tion is indeed a form of medi­a­tion that strug­gles to car­ry a spec­i­men of cul­ture and its lan­guage into anoth­er one (Ulrych, ch. 1). In the case of art texts and espe­cial­ly cat­a­logues, the trans­la­tor has to medi­ate some­thing that is con­strued both as cul­tur­al­ly spe­cif­ic (a text in a par­tic­u­lar lan­guage) and uni­ver­sal (art encap­su­lat­ed into a pic­ture). More­over, one of the spe­cif­ic func­tions of art is to stir emo­tions, but trans­lat­ing emo­tions is very com­plex: for this rea­son, the inte­gra­tion of the visu­al ele­ment in the trans­la­tion process is manda­to­ry (Dewaele).

In gen­er­al, emo­tions that are gen­er­at­ed by art objects are sub­jec­tive, but com­mu­ni­ca­tion makes them col­lec­tive: the visu­al ele­ment on a web page or the print­ed page is what sur­ro­gates the art object or the event to stir emo­tions as a form of dis­place­ment. In the case of exhi­bi­tions, one can expe­ri­ence emo­tion­al con­ta­gion as a form, imme­di­ate and auto­mat­ic, of emo­tive involve­ment to be par­tak­en with or with­out any cog­ni­tive medi­a­tion: pure sen­sa­tion and imme­di­ate shar­ing with oth­er peo­ple. The art event pro­duces vir­tu­al places to accom­mo­date the urgency of get­ting togeth­er in a great emo­tion­al out­let, which is usu­al­ly short-lasting. Nev­er­the­less, once the expe­ri­ence is over, we need some­thing to rec­ol­lect the event (Tur­na­turi 15; Ceru­lo 94).

If art needs to be described and pub­lished, the pub­lic needs to know and under­stand about art beyond the exhi­bi­tion: books, repro­duc­tions of art­works, and mer­chan­dis­ing bring art and design into homes. The cat­a­logue, in par­tic­u­lar, allows the pub­lic to pro­long the exhi­bi­tion, as a re-col­lec­tion of the exhi­bi­tion itself. Muse­ums and sim­i­lar insti­tu­tions work to democ­ra­tize art by fos­ter­ing acces­si­bil­i­ty: the cat­a­logue objec­ti­fies this mis­sion too.1

In gen­er­al, art books and cat­a­logues are sold along with sta­tionery, prints, and appar­el. Cat­a­logues address those who look for more in-depth com­mit­ment to what insti­tu­tions do for the arts. Most of all, they are pub­lished to reach poten­tial buy­ers and donors. Art­books are now avail­able both in elec­tron­ic and print for­mats and there exists a flour­ish­ing sec­ond-hand mar­ket that aims at col­lec­tors all over the world.2 Cat­a­logues are mar­ket­ed by a com­bi­na­tion of tra­di­tion­al pub­lish­ing tac­tics (ads in spe­cial­ized pub­li­ca­tions, mail­ings to review­ers and blog­gers) and exten­sive social media cam­paigns. In sum, cat­a­logues func­tion as part of the elab­o­rate rit­u­al that con­nects the pub­lic, the artists and their work, and the insti­tu­tions that sup­port and val­i­date the arts. Pub­li­ca­tions serve as a met­ric for demon­strat­ing the degree of gallery/institutional sup­port for an exhi­bi­tion. They aim at stir­ring the emo­tion­al effect of art and stim­u­late affec­tion. They work as an exten­sion of the exhi­bi­tion and a proof of the exis­tence of the art object itself, espe­cial­ly medi­at­ing and trans­lat­ing the essen­tial inef­fa­ble and per­for­ma­tive qual­i­ty of con­tem­po­rary art.3

Multilingual Art Catalogues: Standardized Genre, Gift, and a Celebration of Event

Muse­ums pub­lish cat­a­logues, but spe­cial­ized pub­lish­ers have their share. Phaidon, Ski­ra, Som­o­gyi, and Taschen are among the most famous pub­lish­ers in Europe. In recent years, more inde­pen­dent pub­lish­ers have engaged in exper­i­men­tal book project design, focus­ing espe­cial­ly on artist books that widen the scope of the cat­a­logue.4

Nev­er­the­less, art cat­a­logues should not be con­fused with cof­fee table books, which are expen­sive large-for­mat col­lec­tions of pic­tures with con­cise descrip­tions. Designed to start a con­ver­sa­tion or be skimmed and admired by guests, these pub­li­ca­tions became an essen­tial fea­ture in any 20th-cen­tu­ry bour­geois house­hold, con­vey­ing the impres­sion mid­dle-class peo­ple want­ed to give the world about their tastes, edu­ca­tion, and aspi­ra­tions. Art cat­a­logues, instead, are aca­d­e­m­ic works that bal­ance the visu­al with the tex­tu­al ele­ment as they aim at dis­cussing, inform­ing about, and acknowl­edg­ing the rel­e­vance of an exhi­bi­tion or artist work.

What­ev­er the lan­guage, the con­tent, or the pub­lish­er, the core struc­ture of the vol­ume is the same and tes­ti­fies to the for­mu­la­ic nature of this genre and its long-last­ing tradition.

Most exhi­bi­tion cat­a­logues share sev­er­al com­po­nents which include:

  • a list of the exhi­bi­tion sched­ule (if relevant)
  • the exhibition’s fun­ders and spon­sors with their logo and copy­right claims
  • a table of con­tents for fea­tured authors and authorities
  • the sponsor’s state­ment and the list of lenders to the exhibition
  • a list of trustees and fun­ders that rep­re­sent the marketing/business envi­ron­ment in which the exhi­bi­tion takes place

Short chap­ters or writ­ings may fol­low, in which the curator(s) describe(s) the aims of the exhi­bi­tion. The director’s fore­word acknowl­edges all the peo­ple who con­tributed, while the essays are posi­tioned with the cat­a­logue entries, act­ing as a guide to the exhi­bi­tion. Final­ly, there is a chronol­o­gy and a bib­li­og­ra­phy with an index.

Ide­al­ly, the text is orga­nized as a “Chi­nese box” with the exter­nal box con­tain­ing the con­text and ref­er­ence to the com­mu­nica­tive sit­u­a­tion in which the exhi­bi­tion takes place, which, in turn, con­tains the “aca­d­e­m­ic box” with the essays and the bib­li­og­ra­phy, this “box” con­tains also the core item, which is the images of the works of art. There are cas­es in which the essays (tex­tu­al) are sep­a­rat­ed from the images (visu­al), but usu­al­ly, the visu­al ele­ment is insert­ed with­in the essays and becomes part of the nar­ra­tive. In this way, the tex­tu­al ele­ment serves to explain, or gloss, the con­tent, and empha­size and prove a point. Just like in aca­d­e­m­ic writ­ing, where tables, fig­ures and graphs enhance the read­abil­i­ty of an essay, pic­tures pro­vide read­ers with a more stim­u­lat­ing expe­ri­ence of the cri­tique itself. If the cat­a­logue func­tions as a guide to an exhi­bi­tion, there must be a core sec­tion with pic­tures that are accom­pa­nied with a prop­er cat­a­logue num­ber, the indi­ca­tion of the artist, his/her nation­al­i­ty, dates, title of the work, where and when it was cre­at­ed, indi­ca­tion of the material/medium, the dimen­sions, the prove­nance, and signature/inscription infor­ma­tion, if rel­e­vant. In oth­er words, there is a well-defined order in the descrip­tion of the art­works that relates to estab­lished cat­a­logu­ing method­olo­gies, which makes art cat­a­logues a high­ly cod­i­fied genre (see “Cat­e­gories for the Descrip­tion of Works of Art”). In order to clar­i­fy these points, I will con­sid­er three examples.

The cat­a­logue Omag­gio a Lucio Fontana/Homage to Lucio Fontana was pub­lished in 1988 by the Ital­ian pub­lish­er Mar­silio as a com­ple­ment to an exhi­bi­tion ded­i­cat­ed to Lucio Fontana (1899-1968) held at the Collezione Peg­gy Guggen­heim, Venice, and the Mur­ray and Isabel­la Ray­burn Foun­da­tion, New York. The cat­a­logue con­sists of a pref­ace and bio­graph­i­cal infor­ma­tion fol­lowed by a com­men­tary and descrip­tion of the works exhib­it­ed. Final­ly, the cred­its and the names of the two trans­la­tors are giv­en.5 The text is print­ed on dou­ble columns, i.e. the Ital­ian texts are paired with Eng­lish ones (front texts). Blank pages sep­a­rate the var­i­ous seg­ments which have no titles or indi­ca­tions of the chap­ters or sub­sec­tions. The images are, for the most part, col­lect­ed on the right pages while the text is usu­al­ly placed on the ver­so or left page. The cat­a­logue is pro­to­typ­i­cal in the sense that, as most cat­a­logues do, it con­tex­tu­al­izes Fontana’s work and out­lines the devel­op­ment of his career.

An essay by Fred Licht describes the ratio­nale of his art by visu­al­iz­ing his lines (frag­ment­ing the mate­r­i­al toward an abstract under­stand­ing of its form) against works of oth­er artists, shar­ing a clas­si­cal under­stand­ing of sculp­ture, and a deep under­stand­ing of the mate­r­i­al essence of the cre­ative ges­ture and its inher­ent manip­u­lat­ing force. [IMAGE 1]

Image 1: Omag­gio a Lucio Fontana,1988, 24-25, https://​archive​.org/​s​t​r​e​a​m​/​o​m​a​g​g​i​o​0​0​f​o​n​t​#​p​a​g​e​/​2​4​/​m​o​d​e​/​2up

Giv­en the size of the images, the read­er will focus first on the image and then fol­low a reverse path towards the col­umn cor­re­spond­ing to his/ her own pre­ferred lan­guage. This move indi­cates that there exists a lin­ear hier­ar­chy that runs from the image (which is big­ger in size and there­fore more eye-catch­ing) and goes to one of the columns (which is visu­al­ly dense with its com­plex tex­tu­al con­tent). Fac­ing trans­la­tion will end up mar­gin­al­iz­ing one text col­umn for most read­ers with­out pro­fi­cien­cy in both lan­guages. How­ev­er, the align­ment of the two texts is often not equal even if the Eng­lish trans­la­tion is accu­rate and fol­lows the orig­i­nal very close­ly in both the ren­der­ing of spe­cial­ized vocab­u­lary and syn­tax. The phrase struc­ture of the two lan­guages is dif­fer­ent and there­fore pro­duces mis­align­ment. [IMAGE 2]

Image 2: Omag­gio a Lucio Fontana,1988, 60-61, https://​archive​.org/​s​t​r​e​a​m​/​o​m​a​g​g​i​o​0​0​f​o​n​t​#​p​a​g​e​/​6​0​/​m​o​d​e​/​2up

More­over, there are impor­tant styl­is­tic dif­fer­ences. Ital­ian art writ­ing is typ­i­cal­ly rich in ter­mi­nol­o­gy, draw­ing on a vocab­u­lary with unusu­al con­no­ta­tions and pre­fer­ring long sen­tences to short ones. The pref­er­ence for long sen­tences is rather unusu­al in stan­dard Eng­lish but accept­able in the con­text of art writ­ing, where the read­er is like­ly to defer to the author­i­ti­ty of the art critic.

The fol­low­ing exam­ples, how­ev­er, show the over­all adher­ence of the Eng­lish trans­la­tor to the stric­ture and orga­ni­za­tion of the Ital­ian syn­tax and in par­tic­u­lar the use of pre­mod­i­fied noun phras­es and chains of rel­a­tive and that-claus­es:

I quadri ad olio a lavo­razione più spes­sa inte­grati da fram­men­ti col­orati di pietre e vetri sono a metà stra­da tra lo stile aus­tero e intel­let­tual­mente maturo di Fontana e la natu­ra più gioiosa e sen­suale delle sue prime ceramiche.

Thick­ly worked oil paint­ings sup­ple­ment­ed with col­ored frag­ments of stones and glass stand mid­way between Fontana’s aus­tere intel­lec­tu­al mature style and the more play­ful, sen­su­ous nature of his ear­li­er ceramics.

Pro­prio come c’è una coor­di­nazione tra alto e bas­so, destra e sin­is­tra, così c’è una vari­età di coor­di­nate che va dal pun­to più alto di ogni pietra che pen­e­tra lo spazio di fronte la tela e lo spazio dietro la tela reso vis­i­bile dai fori.

Just as there is a coor­di­nate of up and down, right and left, so is there a set of coor­di­nates which goes from the high­est point of each stone that pen­e­trates the space in front of the can­vas to the space made vis­i­ble behind the can­vas by the holes.

A Fontana è spes­so piaci­u­to fare ritorno alle espe­rien­ze iniziali e cer­ta­mente la forte lucen­tez­za del­la super­fi­cie, i col­ori inten­si e l’impasto con la sua cal­ligrafia espres­si­va con­tribuis­cono a pre­sentar­ci un’opera enorme­mente attraente che com­bi­na il tono ottimisti­co dei lavori iniziali in ceram­i­ca con le com­p­lesse med­i­tazioni del­la sua maturità.

Fontana often liked to return to ear­li­er expe­ri­ences, and cer­tain­ly the high gloss of sur­face, the intense col­ors and the care­ful­ly worked impas­to with its expres­sive cal­lig­ra­phy con­spire to present us with an enor­mous­ly appeal­ing work in ceram­ics that com­bines the opti­mistic tone of his ear­li­er work with the com­plex med­i­ta­tions of his matu­ri­ty. (Omma­gio a Lucio Fotana 60)

The trans­la­tion is extreme­ly accu­rate as if the eval­u­a­tive and descrip­tive stance of the crit­ic over­lapped in both languages.

The same approach can be observed in Omma­gio a Jean Hélion: Opere recenti/Homage to Jean Hélion: Recent Works. This cat­a­logue was pub­lished for an exhi­bi­tion of Jean Hélion (1904-1987) held at the same Peg­gy Guggen­heim Col­lec­tion in 1986. In this text, a bio-sketch, writ­ten author­i­ta­tive­ly by the direc­tor of Guggen­heim Foun­da­tion, is fol­lowed by a let­ter writ­ten by the artist which, in turn, is fol­lowed by an aca­d­e­m­ic essay by the same cura­tor and crit­ic Fred Licht. The texts are set in columns: Ital­ian on the left, Eng­lish on the right. The let­ter is in French to tes­ti­fy for the authen­tic­i­ty of the artist’s word/work.

Licht intro­duces Hélion's work of the as a sep­a­rate block: ten pages of writ­ing around a core of four black-and-white images that describe the rhythm of his non­fig­u­ra­tive com­po­si­tions and his archi­tec­tur­al vision of life. [IMAGE 3]

Image 3: Omag­gio a Jean Hélion: opere recen­ti, 11, https://​archive​.org/​s​t​r​e​a​m​/​j​e​a​n​h​l​i​o​n​0​0​h​l​i​o​#​p​a​g​e​/​1​0​/​m​o​d​e​/​2up

The rest of the cat­a­logue con­sists of images and tech­ni­cal descrip­tion with cor­re­spond­ing num­bers. The cat­a­logue is a set sequence of pic­tures that fol­low the path of the exhi­bi­tion. The visu­als repro­duce the tem­po of the exhi­bi­tion while the intro­duc­to­ry essay is a full dis­cus­sion of the author’s work that pre­pares the vis­it. The vol­ume is com­plet­ed with cred­its and a note about the rel­e­vance of Hélion’s paint­ing and its non-objec­tive view of real­i­ty. [IMAGE 4]

Image 4: Omag­gio a Jean Hélion: opere recen­ti, 33-34, https://​archive​.org/​s​t​r​e​a​m​/​j​e​a​n​h​l​i​o​n​0​0​h​l​i​o​#​p​a​g​e​/​5​2​/​m​o​d​e​/​2up

In both texts, the alter­nate use of black-and-white images and colour ones, although moti­vat­ed by the need to lim­it the cost of pub­li­ca­tion, allows the read­er to focus on the draw­ings; albeit this fea­ture is rather dis­ap­point­ing for more con­tem­po­rary read­ers used to the vivid­ness of dig­i­tal printing.

In the exam­ples above, the art cat­a­logues cel­e­brate the life and career of an artist: the role played by the images is espe­cial­ly rel­e­vant as they tes­ti­fy for his cre­ative force. Nev­er­the­less, con­tem­po­rary art uses mixed tech­niques, diverse media, and often prefers instal­la­tion and per­for­mances to tra­di­tion­al for­mats, which can hard­ly be real­ized in the images used in a tra­di­tion­al cat­a­logue. Images are a bidi­men­sion­al device dis­plac­ing mean­ing beyond the phys­i­cal or cul­tur­al con­di­tions in which it was meant to be expe­ri­enced, yet, they are valu­able. The pic­tures and the book dis­tance both the object and the mes­sage. At the same time, the images rec­ol­lect the tem­po of the art­work time and time again. A case in point is a recent pub­li­ca­tion by the Ital­ian pub­lish­er Ski­ra with the col­lab­o­ra­tion of Castel­lo di Riv­o­li – Museo di Arte Con­tem­po­ranea (Turin, Italy) and Shar­jah Art Foun­da­tion (Shar­jah, Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates): Anna Boghigu­ian.

The vol­ume opens with a sequence of full-page pic­tures of a recent work, An inci­dent in the Life of a Philosop­er (2017) ded­i­cat­ed to Niet­zsche, fol­lowed by four essays (two-col­umn text in Eng­lish and Ital­ian, with small size pic­tures), a 98-page sec­tion repro­duc­ing the artist works, book projects and writ­ings, describ­ing the most sig­nif­i­cant achieve­ments of Boghigu­ian, and a rich biog­ra­phy made of short writ­ings, inter­views, descrip­tions of works, images of exhi­bi­tions and works, as well as cov­ers of cat­a­logues. Final­ly, there is a list of the works exhib­it­ed at Riv­o­li (August 2016–January 2017) and a bibliography.

The cat­a­logue itself is the result of the artist’s intense expres­sive force and engage­ment with com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Boghiguian’s work is relat­ed to the very con­cept of the book as a can­vas of relations—a topos of her activ­i­ty since the 80s. Note­books have become part of her instal­la­tions, includ­ing archi­tec­tur­al struc­tures and sce­nar­ios as if they were gigan­tic pop-up books, where space is expe­ri­enced as a con­stant form of dis­place­ment. The large instal­la­tions repro­duced in the vol­ume are expand­ed books (i.e., spaces of intel­lec­tu­al resis­tance that even in print engage view­ers in a direct and bod­i­ly sen­si­tive expe­ri­ence). The read­er is moti­vat­ed to buy the cat­a­logue to under­stand the work and career of the artist. The cat­a­logue is a beau­ti­ful object itself, where the graph­ic design is dynam­ic: pages may be filled with full-size pic­tures or small ones, long-text columns and short notes, while dif­fer­ent fonts (alter­nat­ing grey and black char­ac­ters) are used to enhance read­abil­i­ty. Pages are “cut” to trans­port the read­er imme­di­ate­ly into the world of Boghigu­ian. Eng­lish, Ital­ian, and French sim­ply mix and co-exist with the images that are the main play­er on the page. It is the artist and her work ulti­mate­ly that is fore­ground­ed. Recall­ing Venu­ti, we could con­clude that the crit­ic is as invis­i­ble as the trans­la­tor, and takes a step back, leav­ing the images and the tex­ture of the book to speak for itself.6 [IMAGES 5, 6, 7]

Image 5: Anna Boghigu­ian, Milano, Ski­ra, 2017, 70-71
Image 6: Anna Boghigu­ian, Milano, Ski­ra, 2017, 76-77
Image 7: The Mod­ern Series at the Art Insti­tute of Chica­go, Instal­la­tion Pho­tographs, https://​pub​li​ca​tions​.artic​.edu/​m​o​d​e​r​n​s​e​r​i​e​s​/​r​e​a​d​e​r​/​s​h​a​t​t​e​r​r​u​p​t​u​r​e​b​r​e​a​k​/​s​e​c​t​i​o​n​/​4​3​4​/​4​3​4​_​a​n​c​hor

Translating Art Catalogues: Some Technical Remarks

Art cat­a­logues com­bine the­o­ret­i­cal and crit­i­cal writ­ings, along with descrip­tions and infor­ma­tive con­tri­bu­tions aimed at guid­ing reader/audience response. The com­pos­ite, hybrid struc­ture of these print­ed texts pos­es prob­lems relat­ed to the seman­tic and com­mu­nica­tive aspect of trans­la­tion, in par­tic­u­lar, the man­ag­ing of ter­mi­nol­o­gy and spe­cial­ized lan­guage and the ren­der­ing of the emo­tive dis­course func­tion (e.g., use of stan­dard­ized lan­guage vs. a metaphor­i­cal, poet­ic one). In gen­er­al, trans­la­tors have to medi­ate spe­cial­ized lan­guage by work­ing on the net­work of mean­ings that these texts devel­op, con­sist­ing of ver­bal and visu­al infor­ma­tion. More­over, work­ing with art texts, trans­la­tors need to con­sid­er the poten­tial per­for­ma­tive val­ue of both the source and the tar­get text (i.e., the aes­thet­ic ges­ture that it real­izes in rela­tion to the expec­ta­tions of the audience).

The most chal­leng­ing aspects of trans­lat­ing art cat­a­logues and more gen­er­al­ly art texts are relat­ed to coher­ence and the com­plex syn­tax that art writ­ing uses. Texts in art books are descrip­tive and eval­u­a­tive, and their com­plex­i­ty can be relat­ed to the aca­d­e­m­ic frame of the text (i.e., the art crit­ic writ­ing an essay) or to the poet­ic frame in which an artist may describe, explain his/her work. More­over, the text may ful­fil an emo­tive func­tion (sur­prise, pro­voke, dis­gust, amuse). In the first case, the visu­al com­pletes the infor­ma­tion and sup­ports the point of view of the crit­ic; in the sec­ond case, the artist’s prose may be rich in metaphors, use non-stan­dard word mean­ing, and play with sound sym­bol­ism. In both cas­es, the mean­ing is dis­lo­cat­ed, a word or phrase is used with a dif­fer­ent func­tion (verb phrase as noun phrase; adjec­tive phrase as verb phrase and vice ver­sa), or it is used because of phonosym­bol­ic rea­sons. Syn­onyms are also mean­ing­ful, words being select­ed to rein­force mean­ing. The same is true with rep­e­ti­tions that do not gloss or explain mean­ing but nar­rate a con­cept from a dif­fer­ent point of view. This poet­ic vague­ness can be chal­leng­ing for the trans­la­tor, whose cul­tur­al back­ground is con­tin­u­ous­ly tested.

The visu­al may be an aid to the inter­pre­ta­tion of the text, and, for this rea­son, it is con­sid­ered a dis­cur­sive ele­ment. In oth­er words, images are an inte­gral part of tex­tu­al cohe­sion. Cohe­sion is the prop­er­ty that dis­tin­guish­es a sequence of sen­tences that forms dis­course from a ran­dom sequence of sen­tences, and it con­cerns how the com­po­nents of the sur­face text (the actu­al words we hear or see) are mutu­al­ly con­nect­ed with­in a sequence. If cohe­sive, lex­i­cal, gram­mat­i­cal and oth­er rela­tions pro­vide links between the var­i­ous parts of a text that real­ize the mean­ing and dis­play it at the lev­el of lex­is (word choice) and gram­mar (ana­lyt­i­cal orga­ni­za­tion) and hence define the style and genre of a text. Coher­ence, on the oth­er hand, con­cerns how the com­po­nents of the tex­tu­al world (i.e., the con­cepts and rela­tions which under­lie the sur­face text) are rel­e­vant to com­mu­ni­ca­tion. In both cas­es, visu­al­iz­ing con­cepts is a means to bring togeth­er lev­els of mean­ing, prompt ter­mi­nol­o­gy for con­cepts, and com­ple­ment both tex­tu­al and con­tex­tu­al infor­ma­tion. More specif­i­cal­ly, it helps the trans­la­tor to make lex­i­cal and col­lo­ca­tion­al choic­es and to devel­op descrip­tion strate­gies for any creative/cognitive process­es. When trans­lat­ing art texts, image-based doc­u­men­ta­tion leads to a bet­ter under­stand­ing of con­cepts and a bet­ter ren­der­ing of per­ti­nent ter­mi­nol­o­gy (Bak­er, ch. 6-7). Art texts address a diverse pub­lic, real­iz­ing what has been defined as the prin­ci­ple of ver­ti­cal vari­a­tion, that is, the exis­tence of dif­fer­ent degrees of spe­cial­iza­tion in texts. Trans­la­tors must be aware that images are visu­al resources for the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of spe­cial­ized con­cepts con­di­tioned, to a great extent, by the lev­el of exper­tise of read­ers and the lev­el of den­si­ty of texts (Cabré 73).

As a whole, the visu­al infor­ma­tion always com­ple­ments and ampli­fies ver­bal nar­ra­tion. An image is imme­di­ate and refers to space. A word refers to time; it depicts and cre­ates enti­ties. In the case of art, both aspects are com­bined in the rep­re­sen­ta­tion that is real­ized by the image. The dif­fer­ence lies in the time frame, as the pic­ture in the cat­a­logue reports about the artis­tic event, and dif­fers it (Der­ri­da 3-27). For this rea­son, art is placed with­in a sys­tem, a cross-medi­al one where mean­ing is always com­bi­na­to­r­i­al and rela­tion­al such that no one ele­ment with­in the sys­tem can be con­sid­ered in iso­la­tion: the cat­a­logue is a whole (Hoop­er-Green­hill 3).

The impli­ca­tions for inter­lin­gual and inter­semi­otic trans­la­tion are com­plex: the tar­get text must be con­sid­ered with its source text and in its rela­tion to oth­er tar­get texts as well as to visu­al ele­ments. In oth­er words, the trans­lat­ed text is part of a net­work of visu­al, tex­tu­al, and cul­tur­al ele­ments. A fail­ure to nego­ti­ate and adapt the trans­la­tion to such mul­ti­ple polar­i­ties may lead to vary­ing degrees of inter­pre­tive break­down on the part of the end-user. In a mul­ti­lin­gual envi­ron­ment, both tar­get and source texts must oper­ate side by side with­in the book space and in rela­tion to the same set of visu­al items.

In gen­er­al, trans­la­tors are required to ren­der a text with no dele­tions or addi­tions that might alter the lex­i­cogram­mat­i­cal struc­ture of the text. With cre­ative texts and, more gen­er­al­ly, with texts that work out the mean­ing by push­ing lex­i­cal choice to the lim­its such as lit­er­ary crit­i­cism, phi­los­o­phy, and art crit­i­cism, a trans­la­tion might need to depart wide­ly from the orig­i­nal, sub­mit­ting the tar­get text to var­i­ous degrees of revi­sion and edit­ing to clar­i­fy mean­ing. In oth­er words, the trans­la­tor has to repo­si­tion style along with the con­tent in a dif­fer­ent cul­tur­al con­text. More­over, style and con­tent have to be adapt­ed to the needs of the public.

It is acknowl­edged that the inter­pre­tive force of trans­la­tion issues from the fact that the source text is not only decon­tex­tu­al­ized but recon­tex­tu­al­ized (Sakel­lar­i­ou). The recon­tex­tu­al­iz­ing process entails the cre­ation of anoth­er net­work of inter­tex­tu­al rela­tions estab­lished by and with­in the trans­la­tion (i.e., a receiv­ing inter­text). The process results in the emer­gence of anoth­er con­text of recep­tion, where­by the trans­la­tion is medi­at­ed by edit­ing and print­ing, pro­mo­tion and mar­ket­ing strate­gies, var­i­ous kinds of com­men­taries, and the uses to which diverse read­ers put it.

When trans­lat­ed, then, the source text under­goes not only var­i­ous degrees of for­mal and seman­tic loss, but also, in attempt­ing to fix the form and mean­ing of that text, the trans­la­tor devel­ops an inter­pre­ta­tion in the trans­lat­ing lan­guage that ulti­mate­ly pro­lif­er­ates cul­tur­al dif­fer­ences and fur­ther mean­ing so that the trans­la­tion can sig­ni­fy in the receiv­ing sit­u­a­tion. Quite inter­est­ing­ly, art cat­a­logues are con­ser­v­a­tive. Word for word trans­la­tion or the invis­i­bil­i­ty of the act itself of trans­lat­ing is val­ued as pro­to­typ­i­cal of the good trans­la­tion, despite all the pos­si­ble con­nec­tions to tra­di­tions, move­ments, and insti­tu­tions, the hier­ar­chy of val­ues, beliefs, and rep­re­sen­ta­tions that are acti­vat­ed in the cul­tur­al sit­u­a­tion sur­round­ing the tar­get text. As for images, they work for both the tar­get and the source texts with the same inter­tex­tu­al and inter­semi­otic rela­tions. In gen­er­al, the texts and para­text (paper, typog­ra­phy, page, and web design) assume a sim­i­lar cul­tur­al and social read­er­ships, as if both the tar­get and the source text were on the same lev­el of sig­ni­fi­ca­tion and shared a com­mon lan­guage. This aspect seems to be a con­stant fea­ture even when the text is moved onto the web.

In recent years, some pub­lish­ers have begun to exploit the poten­tials of more inter­ac­tive types of for­mat. This is the case with the Nation­al Gallery of Art in Wash­ing­ton D.C. which pub­lish­es the NGA Online Edi­tions pro­vid­ing infor­ma­tion on the Gallery’s col­lec­tions in a cus­tomized read­ing envi­ron­ment that allows explor­ing the images in detail (“User’s Guide”). In par­tic­u­lar, the toolk­it that frames the image enables the read­er to adjust the read­ing envi­ron­ment with more infor­ma­tion (e.g., com­par­a­tive images, tech­ni­cal images, notes, over­lay and cross-fad­ing tech­niques) and to learn about terms and con­cepts drawn from ency­clo­pe­dic entries or biographies.

Sim­i­lar­ly, the Art Insti­tute of Chica­go pub­lish­es a series of online schol­ar­ly cat­a­logues that aim at a spe­cial­ized pub­lic and allow access to cura­to­r­i­al and con­ser­va­tion research with a focus on tech­niques (“Dig­i­tal Pub­li­ca­tions”). More­over, high-res­o­lu­tion, zoomable images allow the read­er to inves­ti­gate and inspect the col­lec­tion: the time of the learn­ing expe­ri­ence is a cru­cial aspect, in the sense that the reader/viewer takes his/her own time to expe­ri­ence every sin­gle detail of the work of art beyond the cus­tom­ary tim­ing of a muse­um visit.[IMAGE 8, 9]

Image 8: Anna Boghigu­ian, Milano, Ski­ra, 2017, 176-177
Image 9: Hart­ley, Mars­den, Maine Woods, 1908, https://​www​.nga​.gov/​C​o​l​l​e​c​t​i​o​n​/​a​r​t​-​o​b​j​e​c​t​-​p​a​g​e​.​7​2​3​3​2​.​h​tml

Obser­va­tion of the images, com­par­i­son with oth­er works, and the read­ing of a schol­ar­ly com­ment is a form of slow access to a col­lec­tion, address­ing the spe­cial­ist or stu­dent. How­ev­er, the avail­abil­i­ty of the cat­a­logue as an open-access work stim­u­lates a wider audi­ence. The read­er may browse the images and decide to read more, mov­ing to and fro into the text accord­ing to indi­vid­ual choice and inter­est, act­ing as a self-cura­tor (Borowiec­ki et al.).

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, both projects are not mul­ti­lin­gual, but the for­mat and the gen­er­al dis­play of the con­tent is a valu­able mod­el that could be used by pub­lish­ers in mul­ti­lin­gual con­texts to improve the acces­si­bil­i­ty of art to diverse publics.7 Rather than columns with par­al­lel texts, the trans­la­tion might appear “on demand” sup­port­ed by dynam­ic effects. Giv­en the hyper­tex­tu­al­i­ty of the online medi­um, an adap­tive trans­la­tion could endorse, engage or mud­dle the reader’s visu­al under­stand­ing along with or instead of the orig­i­nal, mak­ing the read­ing of the cat­a­logue a real inter­ac­tive experience.

Surviving the Digital: the Future of Art Catalogues

The pro­duc­tion, dis­tri­b­u­tion, and con­sump­tion of edi­to­r­i­al con­tent are chang­ing. Pro­duc­tion and con­sump­tion, in par­tic­u­lar, define new forms of self-pub­lish­ing, with indi­vid­u­als sell­ing direct­ly to their readers/fans accord­ing to dif­fer­ent busi­ness mech­a­nisms that may involve, for exam­ple, crowd­fund­ing (Rectanus).8 At the same time, dis­tri­b­u­tion is influ­enced by online col­lab­o­ra­tive mech­a­nisms that fil­ter projects and rec­om­mend them through online net­works of rela­tion­ships that ori­ent read­ing and build the rep­u­ta­tion and cul­tur­al cap­i­tal of the pub­lish­er. The same mech­a­nism may stim­u­late col­lab­o­ra­tive trans­la­tions to be inte­grat­ed and super­vised by the authors of the texts. Nev­er­the­less, art is seen as a uni­ver­sal lan­guage that does not need translations.

Art cat­a­logues have sur­vived the dig­i­tal age. The exam­ples illus­trat­ed above high­light the strengths and weak­ness­es of a genre that should be recon­sid­ered to bet­ter involve the pub­lic with a mix of tra­di­tion and new trends while keep­ing in mind the com­plex­i­ty of the media involved in the com­mu­nica­tive process (Hugh­es, ch. 4-6). Trans­la­tion has to medi­ate the aca­d­e­m­ic con­tent, let­ting the visu­al play the semi­otic role of com­plet­ing the aes­thet­ic mean­ing of both art and its eval­u­a­tion, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and trans­mis­sion. In a world where art is con­veyed with the most diverse media, pub­lish­ers should recon­sid­er the for­mat of exhi­bi­tion cat­a­logues to engage new audi­ences by using more inter­ac­tive devices and dynam­ic design while favour­ing the dig­i­ti­za­tion of paper catalogues.

Works Cited

About Us.” Muse­um Book­store, https://​www​.muse​um​book​store​.com/​p​a​g​e​s​/​a​b​o​u​t​-us.

Arnold, Ken. Cab­i­nets for the Curi­ous: Look­ing Back at Ear­ly Eng­lish Muse­ums, Ash­gate, 2006.

Audio Guide.” The British Muse­um, https://​www​.british​mu​se​um​.org/​v​i​s​i​t​/​a​u​d​i​o​-​g​u​ide.

Aus­lan­der, Philip. “Live and Tech­no­log­i­cal­ly Medi­at­ed Per­for­mance.” The Cam­bridge Com­pan­ion to Per­for­mance Stud­ies, edit­ed by Tra­cy C. Davis, Cam­bridge UP, 2008, pp. 107-19.

Bay-Cheng, Sarah, et al., edi­tors. Map­ping Inter­me­di­al­i­ty in Per­for­mance. Ams­ter­dam UP, 2010.

Bak­er, Mona. In Oth­er Words: A Course­book on Trans­la­tion. 3rd ed., Rout­ledge, 2018.

Borowiec­ki, Karol Jan, et al., edi­tors. Cul­tur­al Her­itage in a Chang­ing World. Springer Open, 2016, https://​link​.springer​.com/​b​o​o​k​/​1​0​.​1​0​0​7​/​9​7​8​-​3​-​3​1​9​-​2​9​5​4​4-2.

Cabré Castel­lví, María Tere­sa. “Ele­men­tos para una teoría de la ter­mi­nología: hacia un par­a­dig­ma alter­na­ti­vo.” Revista académi­ca del Cole­gio de Tra­duc­tores Públi­cos de la ciu­dad de Buenos Aires, vol. 1, no. 1, 1998, pp. 59-78. DOI10.1400/146121.

Cat­e­gories for the Descrip­tion of Works of Art.” Get­ty, http://​www​.get​ty​.edu/​r​e​s​e​a​r​c​h​/​p​u​b​l​i​c​a​t​i​o​n​s​/​e​l​e​c​t​r​o​n​i​c​_​p​u​b​l​i​c​a​t​i​o​n​s​/​c​d​w​a​/​i​n​d​e​x​.​h​tml.

Ceru­lo, Mas­si­mo. Il sen­tire con­tro­ver­so. Caroc­ci, 2010.

Chaim, Noi. “Par­tic­i­pa­to­ry Media New and Old: Semi­otics and Affor­dances of Muse­um Media.” Crit­i­cal Stud­ies in Media Com­mu­ni­ca­tion, vol. 33, no. 4, 2016, pp. 308-23. http://​dx​.doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​8​0​/​1​5​2​9​5​0​3​6​.​2​0​1​6​.​1​2​2​7​865.

Cho, Wung-Jan, et al. “Pop­u­lar Research Top­ics in Mar­ket­ing Jour­nals, 1995–2014.” Jour­nal of Inter­ac­tive Mar­ket­ing, 40, 2017, pp. 52-72. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​1​6​/​j​.​i​n​t​m​a​r​.​2​0​1​7​.​0​6​.​003.

Cof­fee Table & Art.” Unbound,

Dan­to, Arthur C. “Bour­dieu on Art: Field and Indi­vid­ual.” Bour­dieu: A Crit­i­cal Read­er, edit­ed by Richard Schus­ter­man, Black­well, 1999, pp. 214-19.

Dekker, Annet. Col­lect­ing and Con­serv­ing Net Art: Mov­ing Beyond Con­ven­tion­al Meth­ods. Rout­ledge, 2018

Der­ri­da, Jacques. Mar­gins of Phi­los­o­phy. Trans­lat­ed by Alan Bass, U of Chica­go P, 1982.

Dewaele, Jean-Marc. “Cul­ture and Emo­tion­al Lan­guage.” The Rout­ledge Hand­book of Lan­guage and Cul­ture, edit­ed by Farzad Shar­i­fi­an,  Rout­ledge, 2014, pp. 357-70.

Dig­i­tal Pub­li­ca­tions.” The Art Insti­tute of Chica­go, https://​www​.artic​.edu/​d​i​g​i​t​a​l​-​p​u​b​l​i​c​a​t​i​ons.

Drot­ner, Kirsten, and Kim C. Schrøder, edi­tors. Muse­um Com­mu­ni­ca­tion and Social Media: The Con­nect­ed Muse­um, Rout­ledge, 2013.

En Espanol.” Main Muse­um, https://​the​main​mu​se​um​.org/​e​n​-​e​s​p​a​n​ol/.

Giac­car­di, Elisa, edi­tor. Her­itage and Social Media: Under­stand­ing Her­itage in a Par­tic­i­pa­to­ry Cul­ture, Rout­ledge, 2012.

Hoop­er-Green­hill, Eilean. Muse­ums and the Inter­pre­ta­tion of Visu­al Cul­ture. Rout­ledge, 2000.

Houli­han, Bar­ry. “‘End­less Art’: The Con­tem­po­rary Archive of Per­for­mance.” The Pal­grave Hand­book of Con­tem­po­rary Irish The­atre and Per­for­mance, edit­ed by Jor­dan Eamonn and Weitz Eric, Pal­grave Macmil­lan, 2018, pp. 827-46.

Hugh­es, Karen, and Moscar­do Gian­na. “Con­nect­ing with New Audi­ences: Explor­ing the Impact of Mobile Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Devices on the Expe­ri­ences of Young Adults in Muse­ums.” Vis­i­tor Stud­ies, vol. 20, no. 1, 2017, pp. 33-55.

Hugh­es, Sarah Anne. Muse­um and Gallery Pub­lish­ing: From The­o­ry to Case Study. Rout­ledge, 2019.

Jenk­ins, Hen­ry. Con­ver­gence Cul­ture: Where Old and New Media Col­lide. NYU P, 2006.

Kwon, Jung­min. “Parent–Child Translan­guag­ing among Transna­tion­al Immi­grant Fam­i­lies in Muse­ums.” Inter­na­tion­al Jour­nal of Bilin­gual Edu­ca­tion and Bilin­gual­ism, vol. 22, no. 8, 2019, pp. 1-16.

Lou­vre, https://​www​.lou​vre​.fr/en#.

The Met Store, https://​store​.met​mu​se​um​.org.

The MiC APPs.” Musei Capi­toli­ni, http://​www​.muse​icapi​toli​ni​.org/​e​n​/​i​n​f​o​p​a​g​e​/​l​e​-​a​p​p​-​d​e​i​-​m​i​c-2.

Museo del Pra­do, https://​www​.museodel​pra​do​.es/en.

Nat­ur­al His­to­ry Muse­um, https://​nhm​.org.

Omma­gio a Jean Hélion: Opere recenti/Homage to Jean Hélion: Recent Works, edit­ed by Fred Licht, Peg­gy Guggen­heim Col­lec­tion, 1986. https://​archive​.org/​d​e​t​a​i​l​s​/​j​e​a​n​h​l​i​o​n​0​0​h​lio.

Omag­gio a Lucio Fontana: A cura di Fred Licht/Homage to Lucio Fontana: Curat­ed by Fred Licht, Cat­a­loghi Mar­silio-The Solomon R. Guggen­heim Foun­da­tion, 1988. https://​archive​.org/​d​e​t​a​i​l​s​/​o​m​a​g​g​i​o​0​0​f​ont.

Pat­ter­son, Matt. “Build­ing Cit­i­zens by Build­ing Muse­ums: Roy­al Ontario Muse­um & Art Gallery of Ontario.” Con­tem­po­rary Muse­um Archi­tec­ture and Design: The­o­ry and Prac­tice of Place, edit­ed by Geor­gia Lind­say, Rout­ledge, 2020, pp. 155-77.

Pearce, Susan. On Col­lect­ing: An Inves­ti­ga­tion into Col­lect­ing in the Euro­pean Tra­di­tion. Rout­ledge, 2013.

Rectanus, Mark W. Muse­ums Inside Out: Artist Col­lab­o­ra­tions and New Exhi­bi­tion Ecolo­gies. U of Min­neso­ta P, 2020.

Run­nel, Pille, et al. “Vis­i­tors, Users, Audi­ences: Con­cep­tu­al­is­ing Peo­ple in the Muse­um.” Democ­ra­tis­ing the Muse­um: Reflec­tions of Par­tic­i­pa­to­ry Tech­nolo­gies, edit­ed by Pille Run­nel and Pille Pruul­mann-Vnger­feldt. Peter Lang, 2014, pp. 219-38.

Sakel­lar­i­ou, Pana­gi­o­tis. “The Appro­pri­a­tion of the Con­cept of Inter­tex­tu­al­i­ty for Trans­la­tion-the­o­ret­ic Pur­pos­es.” Trans­la­tion Stud­ies, vol. 8, no. 1, 2015, pp. 35-47.

Sale Cat­a­logues.” The British Library, https://​www​.bl​.uk/​c​o​l​l​e​c​t​i​o​n​-​g​u​i​d​e​s​/​s​a​l​e​-​c​a​t​a​l​o​g​ues.

Sant, Toni, edi­tor. Doc­u­ment­ing Per­for­mance: The Con­text and Process­es of Dig­i­tal Cura­tion and Archiv­ing. Blooms­bury, 2017.

Schech­n­er, Richard. Per­for­mance Stud­ies: An Intro­duc­tion. Rout­ledge, 2006.

Sco­lari, Car­los Alber­to. “Trans­me­dia Sto­ry­telling: Implic­it Con­sumers, Nar­ra­tive Worlds, and Brand­ing in Con­tem­po­rary Media Pro­duc­tion.” Inter­na­tion­al Jour­nal of Com­mu­ni­ca­tion, vol. 3, 2009, pp. 586-606.

Tur­na­turi, Gabriel­la, “Emozioni: maneg­gia­re con cura.” Intim­ità fred­de. Le emozioni nel­la soci­età dei con­su­mi, Fel­trinel­li, 2007, pp. 9-25.

User’s Guide.” Nation­al Gallery of Art, https://​www​.nga​.gov/​r​e​s​e​a​r​c​h​/​o​n​l​i​n​e​-​e​d​i​t​i​o​n​s​/​u​s​e​r​s​-​g​u​i​d​e​.​h​tml.

Ulrych, Margheri­ta. Traces of Medi­a­tion in Rewrit­ing and Trans­la­tion. EDU­Catt, 2015.

Welling­ton, Shan­non, and Gillan Oliv­er. “Review­ing the Dig­i­tal Her­itage Land­scape: The Inter­sec­tion of Dig­i­tal Media and Muse­um Prac­tice.” Inter­na­tion­al Hand­books of Muse­um Stud­ies, vol. 4, Wiley Black­well, 2015, pp. 577-598.

What Makes Us Dif­fer­ent.” MoMA Design Store, https://​store​.moma​.org/​a​b​o​u​t​-​m​o​m​a​-​d​e​s​i​g​n​-​s​t​o​r​e​.​h​tml.

Yalowitz, Steven, et al. Bilin­gual Exhib­it Research Ini­tia­tive: Insi­tu­tion­al and Inte­gen­er­a­tional Expe­ri­ence with Bilin­gual Exhi­bi­tions. Bilin­gual Exhib­it Research Ini­tia­tive-Nation­al Sci­ence Foun­da­tion, 2013, https://​www​.infor​malscience​.org/​s​i​t​e​s​/​d​e​f​a​u​l​t​/​f​i​l​e​s​/​2​0​1​3​-​1​0​-​0​1​_​B​E​R​I​_​R​e​s​e​a​r​c​h​_​r​e​p​o​r​t​_​F​i​n​a​l​_​S​e​p​_​2​0​1​3​.​pdf.

Image Notes

Image 1: Omag­gio a Lucio Fontana,1988, 24-25, https://​archive​.org/​s​t​r​e​a​m​/​o​m​a​g​g​i​o​0​0​f​o​n​t​#​p​a​g​e​/​2​4​/​m​o​d​e​/​2up

Image 2: Omag­gio a Lucio Fontana,1988, 60-61, https://​archive​.org/​s​t​r​e​a​m​/​o​m​a​g​g​i​o​0​0​f​o​n​t​#​p​a​g​e​/​6​0​/​m​o​d​e​/​2up

Image 3: Omag­gio a Jean Hélion: opere recen­ti, 11, https://​archive​.org/​s​t​r​e​a​m​/​j​e​a​n​h​l​i​o​n​0​0​h​l​i​o​#​p​a​g​e​/​1​0​/​m​o​d​e​/​2up

Image 4: Omag­gio a Jean Hélion: opere recen­ti, 33-34, https://​archive​.org/​s​t​r​e​a​m​/​j​e​a​n​h​l​i​o​n​0​0​h​l​i​o​#​p​a​g​e​/​5​2​/​m​o​d​e​/​2up

Image 5: Anna Boghigu­ian, Milano, Ski­ra, 2017, 70-71

Image 6: Anna Boghigu­ian, Milano, Ski­ra, 2017, 76-77

Image 7: Anna Boghigu­ian, Milano, Ski­ra, 2017, 176-177

Image 8: The Mod­ern Series at the Art Insti­tute of Chica­go, Instal­la­tion Pho­tographs, https://​pub​li​ca​tions​.artic​.edu/​m​o​d​e​r​n​s​e​r​i​e​s​/​r​e​a​d​e​r​/​s​h​a​t​t​e​r​r​u​p​t​u​r​e​b​r​e​a​k​/​s​e​c​t​i​o​n​/​4​3​4​/​4​3​4​_​a​n​c​hor

Image 9: Hart­ley, Mars­den, Maine Woods, 1908, https://​www​.nga​.gov/​C​o​l​l​e​c​t​i​o​n​/​a​r​t​-​o​b​j​e​c​t​-​p​a​g​e​.​7​2​3​3​2​.​h​tml


  1. Con­tem­po­rary muse­um expe­ri­ence is evolv­ing. Insti­tu­tions embrace tech­nol­o­gy to address new publics and imple­ment inclu­sive­ness. Both block­buster exhi­bi­tions and small­er exhibits do their best to be, or at least look, inter­ac­tive and immer­sive, as they aim to attract the pub­lic. The issue is con­tro­ver­sial and can be exam­ined from dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives (see, for exam­ple, Giac­car­di; Drot­ner and Schrøder; Welling­ton and Oliv­er; Rectanus; “What Makes Us Dif­fer­ent”; The Met Store).

  2. The Muse­um Book­store is an inter­est­ing exam­ple of a spe­cial­ized web book­store: “exhi­bi­tion cat­a­logues are a great way to open up the many hun­dreds of won­der­ful muse­um shows tak­ing place around the globe to new audi­ences. While these books are some of the most thought-pro­vok­ing, infor­ma­tive and beau­ti­ful around, they can be heavy to car­ry and dif­fi­cult to track down, par­tic­u­lar­ly for past exhi­bi­tions. We set up Muse­um Book­store for art, fash­ion and design lovers whether they want to read up on an exhi­bi­tion they are about to vis­it; read more about an exhi­bi­tion being held far afield, revis­it an old favorite show or just add anoth­er beau­ti­ful cof­fee table book to their col­lec­tion” (“About Us”).

  3. Cat­a­logues are writ­ten and pub­lished with the con­tri­bu­tion of schol­ars and may con­tain aca­d­e­m­ic essays but their func­tion is not con­fined to the aca­d­e­m­ic con­text. As a genre, they ful­fil a dif­fer­ent com­mu­nica­tive func­tions depend­ing of var­i­ous fac­tors such as the kind of pub­lic they address, the for­mat, the posi­tion­ing of the artist with­in the cat­a­logue (i.e., if she or he con­tributes direct­ly to the text or not). They also tes­ti­fy to the exhi­bi­tion itself (see Sant; Dekker; Houli­han).

  4. Exam­ples are D.A.P, Dis­trib­uted Art Pub­lish­ers, Bad­lands, Dami­ani, David Zwirn­er, Deste Foun­da­tion for Con­tem­po­rary Art, Edi­to­r­i­al RM, Edi­tions Xavier Bar­ral, Exact Change, FUEL, Gre­go­ry R. Miller & Co., Hat­je Cantz, Hauser & Wirth, Heni, The Ice Plant, JRP|Ringier, Kar­ma, Lars Müller, Metrop­o­lis Books, nai010, Nation­al Por­trait Gallery, Poligrafa, Radius, Reel Art Press, Siglio, Spec­tor, Stei­dl, Turn­er, Val­iz, Vision­aire, Wake­field Press, and Walther König.

  5. The cat­a­logue men­tions Annari­ta Fuso and Rena­ta Rossani as trans­la­tors; Men­ni­ni and Gre­golin, Ugo Mulas, and Fon­dazione Lucio Fontana for the pho­tographs along with Tere­si­ta Fontana, Car­la Pan­i­cali, Fon­dazione Lucio Fontana, and a pri­vate col­lec­tion as lenders of the works exhib­it­ed.

  6. The notion of invis­i­bil­i­ty was intro­duced into the field of Trans­la­tion Stud­ies by Lawrence Venuti’s polem­i­cal mono­graph The Translator’s Invis­i­bil­i­ty: A His­to­ry of Trans­la­tion (1995). Invis­i­bil­i­ty refers to the fact that the trans­la­tor does not nor­mal­ly appear as a co-pro­duc­er of a text and to the fact that the trans­lat­ed text tends to be writ­ten in line with pre­vail­ing notions of plain­ness. In oth­er words, the trans­la­tor effaces him/herself, dis­ap­pear­ing from the text and leav­ing no styl­is­tic mark. In this con­text, the crit­ic serves as the trans­la­tor.

  7. The exam­ples use only Eng­lish and no trans­la­tion is pro­vid­ed in Span­ish, Chi­nese, French, or oth­er lan­guages. In recent years though, some US insti­tu­tions have engaged with local com­mu­ni­ties by address­ing the issue of mul­ti­lin­gual­ism. For exam­ple, in Cal­i­for­nia, the The Main Muse­um of Los Ange­les Art has devel­oped its media in Span­ish (“En Espanol”) and the Nat­ur­al His­to­ry Muse­um in Los Ange­les also pro­vides mate­ri­als for vis­i­tors in Span­ish (Nat­ur­al His­to­ry Muse­um). Bilin­gual­ism in muse­ums exhib­tions is now being inves­ti­gat­ed and treat­ed as a resource to attract audi­ences (see, for exam­ple, Yalowitz et al.).Institutions such as MOMA allow vis­i­tors to trans­late the key infor­ma­tion on the web­page in many lan­guages (machine trans­la­tion). As for Europe, the British Muse­um and Musei Capi­toli­ni in Rome pro­vide audio­gu­ides in many lan­guages (“Audio Guide”; “The MiC APPs”), while the Lou­vre in Paris and the Pra­do in Madrid pro­vide the trans­la­tion of their web­site in Eng­lish and oth­er lan­guages (Lou­vre; Museo del Pra­do). Trans­la­tion is increas­ing­ly becom­ing a research top­ic in Muse­um Stud­ies (see, for exam­ple, Kwon; Pat­ter­son).

  8. A good exam­ple of col­lab­o­ra­tive approach to pub­lish­ing by involv­ing the pub­lic is rep­re­sent­ed by Unbound, a team of writ­ers, design­ers, pub­lish­ers, and pro­duc­ers work­ing togeth­er in cen­tral Lon­don that sup­port the pub­li­ca­tion of inde­pen­dent book projects (“Cof­fee Table and Art”).